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In 1902 members of the Japanese Woman's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) submitted a petition to the National Diet to abolish the custom of rewarding good deeds and patriotic service with the bestowal of sake cups. Alcohol production and consumption, its members argued, harmed individuals, endangered public welfare, and wasted vital resources.
The sake cup petition was only one initiative in a wide-ranging program to reform public and private behaviour in Japan. Between 1886 and 1912, the WCTU launched campaigns to eliminate prostitution, eradicate drinking and smoking, spread Christianity, and improve the lives of women. As Elizabeth Dorn Lublin shows, members did not passively accept and propagate government policy but felt a duty to shape it by defining social problems and influencing opinion. Certain their beliefs and reforms were essential to Japan's advancement, members couched their calls for change in the rhetorical language of national progress. Ultimately, the WCTU's activism belies received notions of women's public involvement and political engagement in Meiji Japan.
This fascinating study of women bound by God, home, and country will appeal to students and scholars of Japanese History, religious studies, and gender studies.